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Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 5

Updated on November 8, 2012

The Just War, Ch. 5

Note: This is the fifth installment in novel that I'm writing as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1-30. The rules are: write it! Don't edit, don't obsess, don't chart out notes. Don't worry about spelling, syntax, grammar or continuity. You can go back and fix those things later, but the most important thing to writing the novel is to get it written! It works out to 1,667 words per day. If you do more, great! If you do less, don't worry! Just keep plugging! And hopefully my first draft, with all spelling errors and continuity holes intact, will inspire you that you can do it too!

“What’s going on out there?”

Stacey Johnson sat in the chair across from Barry, staring deep into his eyes. His back was to the glass wall of the study cubicle, which meant that his back was also turned to the lobby of the library. Barry was sixteen years old, and his brown eyes had captivated Stacey the first time they met. She was fifteen but they were in the same advanced English Lit class at Fishers High School. She was about five inches shorter than Barry, and she liked looking up into his eyes. A lot.

The two of them had developed the habit of meeting in the library most Saturday mornings. Their excuse of studying literature together fooled nobody, but then nobody seemed to mind. Stacey liked that Barry was smart but didn’t take it too seriously. She liked that he was not a jock. She liked that he drove a car and would take her to see movies on the weekend. She liked that he was nice enough that her parents trusted him, but not too much. She liked Barry’s parents, but Jen was a different story. She didn’t like it when Jen had meltdowns, or screamed, or demanded attention that she should be getting. She didn’t like it that Barry sometimes had to cancel dates because his sister was having trouble, she didn’t like that sometimes when she was on the phone with him that he would get off to take care of his sister. She didn’t want anyone to misunderstand, it wasn’t like she hated Jen. She felt sorry for Jen, but she’d never known anyone with an autistic kid. It was weird, and a little creepy. Her parents told her that she should try harder to at least see things from Barry’s point of view, if she couldn’t see them from Jen’s. Still, she knew they weren’t totally comfortable either, and a lot of times they just said stuff like that because they knew they were supposed to. And although she liked Barry, she didn’t think she could ever marry a guy with an autistic sibling. She didn’t want to wind up taking care of them for the rest of her life or anything.

They’d been sitting in the cubicle, pretty much like they did most Saturdays. They didn’t always get the same cubicle, but they tried. One of the benefits of Barry’s dad driving him over before the library actually opened was that he could usually scoot in and grab the cubicle they considered to be “their cubicle before anyone else could get it. And most Saturdays they sat blissfully unaware of the rest of the world until Barry’s dad would break the spell by calling him on his phone. The ringtone would erupt like an earthquake in their little world. Then Barry would get up and apologize, and they would talk about meeting up later. When they didn’t think Barry’s dad could see, they would even kiss goodbye. Nothing big, but it still counted.

Stacey had one hand on Sense and Sensibility, a book she was reading for pleasure, and the other on Barry’s. She didn’t even notice the world outside of their cubicle, but then a sudden explosion of motion and yelling caught her attention.

“What’s going on?”

Stacey asked the question to Barry, who at first didn’t react, just looking into Stacey’s eyes. After that, Stacey remembered everything being in slow motion, like in a movie. Barry got a look on his face, like he had just seen a man coming after him with a gun. Leaping up, he whirled around, knocking his chair over. He almost ripped the door off it’s hinge getting it open. Running out, he began yelling. That was when Stacey realized that most of the yelling, the loudest yelling, was being done by Barry’s dad. He was yelling for someone to call 911, shouting for Barry, yelling for help. Rushing out of the cubicle, she saw Barry’s dad rushing down the hallway toward the meeting rooms, still yelling for someone to call for help. Several people were on their cellphones, one of the librarians was on a phone. Barry was running out the front door, Stacey ran after him. She still didn’t understand what was going on, why everybody was so upset. She thought that probably Jen was having a meltdown, maybe had run away and fallen down some stairs or run into some plate glass and gotten hurt. But then why was Barry running out the front door? He was running around the building, toward the east entrance, the same way his dad was running inside the building. He got halfway to the end of the building when a white van came careening at high speed around the corner, almost driving up on the sidewalk and hitting Barry. Barry dove for the ground, scrambling to get out of the way. When he got up, Stacey turned to see the van drive out the entrance, almost hitting a black Nissan that was being driven by a middle-aged woman. The van took the curb going out, lifting one side off the ground just a little. She saw the number 5 and the letter S on the license plate. She caught a flash of red in one of the back windows, it seemed to be banging against the glass.

People were coming out of the library, trying to see what was going on. Stacey heard Barry’s dad’s voice yelling something, but she couldn’t make out what. She couldn’t see the van anymore, but out of the corner of her eye she saw Barry. She realized that his dad was telling Barry to jump in the Explorer and try to catch the van. Barry ran over, yanked the door open, and gunned the van out of the parking space, just missing backing into several parked cars. Barry looked panic-stricken. It was all beginning to sink in for Stacey, the reason that Barry looked like that, the reason his dad was yelling so much, the reason why everyone was on their cellphones calling 911. Barry, yelling something that Stacey couldn’t make out inside the enclosed vehicle, tried to follow the same path as the van, but almost mowed over several police officers who had literally run over from the station. She saw several officers draw their guns and surround the SUV, ordering Barry out and down on the ground. All the while he was screaming about the van that just left with his sister. Then his dad was over at the vehicle, arguing with a couple of officers. Then more people joined them, and Stacey realized that she was also over there, screaming at an officer. He was yelling something at the people but Stacey couldn’t process what he was saying, all she could think about was that Jen had been kidnapped. She realized that several police cars, the black Dodge Chargers the department had bought, were tearing out, lights and sirens going. She looked over at Barry, who was still face down on the ground and was now crying, wailing like a lost soul. His dad was trying to run the way the van had gone, an officer was restraining him and trying to tell him that he would do more good by staying put and telling the police as much as he could. Several officers were fanning out, asking people what they knew, what they could remember. One man, a tall blond man who was beefy looking and looked like he was in his 40’s, came up and asked Stacey what she could tell them. Her mind was completely blanking, she couldn’t think about what had happened. She looked at Barry, who was being helped up by a dark-haired officer, and at his dad, who was still being literally held in place by two policemen who were trying to calm him down. The blond officer was still talking to Stacey, who just looked at him and asked, “What going on over there?”

“Over there, miss?” The officer looked puzzled.

Stacey snapped back. “I’m sorry officer. Um, I saw a white van peel out of here like it was being chased by terrorists. It went out the entrance, it almost hit that black Nissan over there.”

The officer looked where Stacey was pointing. The Nissan had pulled into a parking space close to the entrance, the woman who had been driving it was talking to another policeman. Stacey could see a toddler strapped into a carseat in the back.

Turning back to Stacey, the officer asked, “All right. Did you get a look at the license plate?”

The number 5 and the letter S came to Stacey. “Yeah, but all I saw was a 5 and an S. I’m sorry, I don’t remember any more than that.” She looked at his badge, saw that the name on it read “Barlow.”

He asked if she could remember anything else, and she remembered the flash of red against the window. Officer Barlow was puzzled, until she explained that her boyfriend was the brother of the girl who had been taken. “She’s autistic, and sometimes when she’s having a bad time they put a red helmet on her, so that if she bangs her head she doesn’t get hurt.”

She gave her name and phone number to the officer, and he said the department would be in touch. She still felt like everything was happening in slow motion. She started walking toward Barry, who was standing with his dad. She suddenly realized that the sky was overcast, the clouds dark. The wind was whipping around her head, feeling like icicles being rubbed against her cheek and forehead. In the excitement, she had left her jacket in the cubicle, and she was getting cold, but at that moment the only thing she could see was Barry. The look on his face, she’d seen it in movies and on television, but it was different when she saw it on Barry’s face. The look of loss, the look like he had tried to stop what was happening, the look that said he felt like it was all his fault. He saw her, watched her as she walked toward him, but he was somewhere else. She walked up to him and tried to look into his eyes, but they were dark and there was a wall. His face was ridged and furrowed, the emotions etching his face the way an iceburg etches the land. He was looking right at her, but he didn’t see her. She reached up and touched his face, putting her right hand on his left cheek and jawline. Then he saw her, put his head down on her shoulder, and as she stroked his hair he started to wail. His dad put his arms around them both.

It was raining. Hard.

copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved


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